“When I look back at my basketball career, I want to say I tried to inspire as much as I could.”
Kanter can still picture the wood switch his first-grade teacher used to wield at students who fell out of line. “Whenever you did something crazy they’d say ‘open your hand,’” he says. “I still remember, man. My hands would hurt so bad. Oh my God.”School was everything in his family, but it wasn’t his thing. “I was a really good student, first, second grade, third grade, and then fourth grade a little bit. And then I don’t know what happened. I became a very terrible student. I wish I took it more serious.”His parents still pushed him up through middle school, until the pressure to succeed conflicted with the cold reality of knowing he wasn’t put on this Earth to master or even enjoy academia. (Years later, when enrolled at Kentucky, Kanter passed all his classes except art, which he eventually dropped. “It was three hours at night. Too long,” he says. “We weren’t drawing either. It was like history, with reading and stuff.”) Whenever organized basketball came up as a possibility, Kanter’s father would rant about poor grades and the money he already paid the school. His mother repeatedly reminded him that millions of kids wanted to do the exact same thing. “I was getting so much shit from my parents, from my family,” he says.But perspectives began to shift when he was eleven. A competitive game of after-school ping-pong against his dad spilled onto the basketball court. The two played one-on-one, a boy against his athletic, volleyball-keen, 6’5” father. Enes won. In Mehmet’s eyes, stifling this gift was officially foolish.
“I don’t know what happened. I became a very terrible student.”
Kanter began preparing for this, his eighth NBA season, less than a week after his seventh one ended five months ago. Even with a hectic travel schedule, he still spent between three and four hours a day in a gym all summer. The only days he took off were those designated for rest.
“How do you not like Enes?”